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As Right-Wing Protests Mount, Kassel Removes Olu Oguibe’s Pro-Refugee Obelisk

In further news: The Met to include Native art in American wing; Nan Goldin’s cameo on HBO’s ‘The Deuce’

An assistant paints letters onto Olu Oguibe’s Monument to Strangers and Refugees, 2017, Kassel. Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images; photograph: John MacDougall

An assistant paints letters onto Olu Oguibe’s Monument to Strangers and Refugees, 2017, Kassel. Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images; photograph: John MacDougall

An assistant paints letters onto Olu Oguibe’s Monument to Strangers and Refugees, 2017, Kassel. Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images; photograph: John MacDougall

The city of Kassel, Germany, has dismantled Nigerian-born American artist Olu Oguibe’s Monument to Strangers and Refugees (2017), originally made for documenta 14. According to local newspaper reports, the sculpture – a 16-metre-high obelisk – was removed with two cranes in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was later seen strapped to a flatbed truck and taken to a construction site on the outskirts of the city. The removal of the site-specific work, installed in the city’s Königsplatz, followed a majority vote in the Kassel city council on 24 September – the initial loan agreement between the artist and the city expired on September 30. The concrete monument bears the inscription ‘I was a stranger and you took me in,’ a verse from Matthew 25:35, inscribed in gold letters in German, English, Arabic, and Turkish. Last year, a crowdfunding campaign was launched in an attempt to acquire the work permanently, raising USD$150,000 of the required USD$700,000 – the artist later agreed to a discounted rate. The city requested that the work then be moved to a different site in Kassel, leading to deadlock after Oguibe refused. Over the past year, the work has been the target of vandals as well as far-right criticism – one member of the right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and Kassel city councillor called it ‘ideologically polarizing, deformed art’, taking issue with its explicitly pro-immigrant politics. Local AfD politicians have reportedly been lobbying to have the artwork removed. Don’t miss our editorial from the latest issue of frieze on far-right pressure and the art world’s responsibility in Europe’s culture wars.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is reclassifying Native American art. An exhibition of Native American artworks will be held in the museum’s American wing for the first time ever. The exhibition features 116 pieces donated from the collection of US philanthropists Charles and Valerie Diker, who stipulated that they be presented in a way that helped to ‘recontextualize what we define as American culture’. Charles Diker told The Art Newspaper that their donation was contingent on the pieces being displayed ‘as American art rather than tribal art.’ Works on show include painted leather and textile mantles, wooden sculptures and mask, from the 2nd century to the dawn of the 20th century. Director Max Hollein commented: ‘The presentation in the American Wing of these exceptional works by Indigenous artists marks a critical moment in which conventional narratives of history are being expanded to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of cultures that have long been marginalized.’ Traditionally the Met has displayed Native American artworks in its Africa, Oceania and the Americas galleries.

Nan Goldin made a guest appearance on HBO’s ‘The Deuce’. The TV series, set in the porn industry of 1970s Manhattan, featured the renowned photographer in an episode where she plays the patron of a dive-bar art exhibition, and looks up at photographs from her own series ‘Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ which are hung on the walls. ‘They call that art?’, she asks the bar owner, played by James Franco. ‘I coulda done that.’ On Twitter, the show’s co-creator David Simon, said: ‘What do you have to do to get the great Nan Goldin to do a big fat meta-cameo on your television drama? You have to study her photographs of 1970s Times Square and inject the raw DNA into your film sets, your wardrobe department, your hair and makeup trailer, your story & themes’. It’s not the first time Goldin has graced the screen, making an appearance in Bette Gordon’s 1983 film Variety – a drama about a woman working at an adult theatre. Don’t miss Saul Anton writing for us on how ‘The Deuce’ transcends the sentimental falsehood that makes nostalgia problematic. 

In London, the V&A is revamping its Museum of Childhood with a GBP£13.5 million redevelopment plan. The museum has embarked on an ambitious project to update the museum with a redevelopment, led by De Matos Ryan, aimed at making it more immersive and interactive. V&A director Tristram Hunt said that he hoped changes would be completed by 2022, although it’s currently unknown whether the museum will have to close during the planned works. ‘This flagship project will unlock the V&A Museum of Childhood’s huge potential to fire imagination, spark ingenuity and become the world’s most joyful museum for children, families and young people,’ Hunt said. Future plans include the ‘Kaleidoscope’, which will be an interactive installation in the main galleries inspired by the V&A’s collection of optical toys. In addition, the museum will create four new galleries and an outdoor play area.

Participants for the 2018 Athens Biennale have been announced. The sixth edition, curated by Stefanie Hessler, Kostis Stafylakis, and Poka-Yio, is titled ‘ANTI’ and will consider attitudes of opposition, nonconformity, and marginality. Participating artists include Monira Al Qadiri, Cao Fei, Ed Fornieles, Kahlil Joseph, Rachel Maclean, Yuri Pattison and Jon Rafman. The biennial will reportedly dissect the way we ‘polarize, fight and antagonize’ in the age of ‘social media and neo-reactionary movements’. It will take place across several buildings across the city, including the Esperia Palace, the Benakeios Library and the TTT building.

The Italian government has announced three artists for its national pavilion at the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale in 2019. Enrico David, Chiara Fumai, and Liliana Moro have been named as the selected artists who will represent the country at the biennale. The three artists were selected by the artistic director of the Fiorucci Art Trust, Milovan Farronato, who will serve as the pavilion’s curator. Don’t miss our profile of Fumai, whose occultist experiments transformed her body and biography into art, and who passed away last year at the age of 39.

Los Angeles-based gallery Regen Projects now represents artist Alex Hubbard. The gallery will present a solo exhibition of the artist’s work next year. Hubbard, born 1975, works with painting, sculpture, and video works. In a statement, gallery owner Shaun Caley Regen said of the new relationship: ‘I have been a great admirer of Alex’s work for many years and his ability to integrate so many seemingly disparate materials into his practice.’

At Frieze London: the Frieze Tate Fund, supported by Endeavor, has announced its 2018 acquisitions. Selected works include Sonia Boyce’s The Audition (1997), Giorgio Griffa’s Rose e grigio (1969) and Johanna Unzueta’s April, May 2016 NY (2016). Guest curators on the panel included the Guggenheim’s Katherine Brinson and the Met’s Shanay Jhaveri. Tate director Maria Balshaw said: ‘The Frieze Tate Fund has made an important contribution to the national collection of contemporary art at Tate. We are once again excited to be able to select work from Frieze so that a broad public at Tate can experience new art as it emerges.’ The Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund purchased works by Kehinde Wiley and Zadie Xa, to be donated to The Box in Plymouth. In addition, Sprüth Magers gallery has received the Frieze Stand Prize, and Blank Projects gallery has been awarded the Focus Stand Prize. This year’s inaugural Camden Arts Centre Emerging Arts Prize has been awarded to Wong Ping, who will receive a solo show at the gallery within the next 18 months.

In further awards news: the MacArthur Foundation has announced the recipients for its annual ‘MacArthur Genius Grant’ fellows programme, which offers each fellow an unrestricted grant of USD$625,000 over the next five years – this year the grantees include the artists Julie Ault, Titus Kaphar and Wu Tsang. And South African collective Chimurenga has been named the winner of the 2018–20 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice by the New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics in New York.

And finally, New York’s Guggenheim Museum has announced the restitution of an Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painting, seized by Nazi collectors. The painting Artillerymen (1915) will be returned to the heirs of its original owner, the dealer Alfred Flechtheim, who was separated from the work in 1930s Germany following an anti-Semitic propaganda campaign against him, with the artwork later seized by members of the Nazi party.

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